When developing a character for a new book, it helps to think about the people we know and real facets of their characters that make them interesting or challenging to deal with. Their strengths and weaknesses, how they relate to other people, who they really are down deep inside as opposed to their public faces. Is your character an introvert or extrovert?
There’s a lot more to being an introvert or an extrovert than the usually perceived differences between being shy or being outgoing.
You can have a character that is initially reserved and wary, but as he gets to know people and warms up to them, can become the life of the party.
Or you can have a character who is attracted to outgoing personalities, but whose own personality is very retiring. This juxtaposition in character can make for great conflict to drive your story forward.
A major determiner of a character’s personality is whether they’re more introverted or extroverted.
To help round out your character’s personality traits, I’ve created graphs dealing with introverted versus extroverted behavior.
1. How does your character respond physically to being with people?
Does your character:
- become energized by being around people?
- become fatigued by being around people?
- have a response somewhere in between, like becoming overstimulated and energized while people are around but having an exhausted, let-down response after they’re gone?
2. How does your character respond emotionally to other people?
Emotional response can range from:
- Not caring what other people think. For example: the classic “tough guy” or “independent woman”
- Caring too much what others think to the point of being desperately needy for approval. For example: a girl whose feelings are easily hurt, or a “yes man”
- Most people’s emotional response to social friction falls somewhere in between, and can even fluctuate from one day to the next. Describing that fluctuation, and how and why it happens, can build nuance and subtlety into your story, and bring your character to life.
3. What is your character’s personal preference as a result of their emotional and physical responses to other people?
Is your character a loner or do they always need people around them? Does your character thrive on having company stop by, and live for the next big get-together, group event, or party?
Or does your character take to their heels rather than have to deal with people? Maybe your character has such a strong negative emotional response to dealing with other people that they’ve chosen the life of a hermit.
Or maybe they would be a hermit if they could, but that choice has been denied them, and they struggle to come to grips with a loved one’s need for a constant flow of people through their lives.
4. One-on-one introvert versus crowd extrovert
Or maybe they like people, but they need to take the time to get to know them one on one, because crowds overwhelm them.
Maybe your character prefers having fewer, but deeper friendships to spending time with lots of superficial friendships.
Or maybe they fall somewhere in between: they like having crowd time, but they also need their few close, intimate friends as well.
More questions to ask as you develop your character’s personality:
- What challenges would the demands of leadership place on an introvert? on an extrovert?
- Can you have an extrovert who lives successfully (if only for a short time) as a “lone wolf”?
- How would you write a character that is very introverted, but must deal daily with many people? What sort of “personality mask” would they wear?
Application Example: Bjorn Horsa
Bjorn Horsa is an extrovert.
He has seldom if ever found himself completely alone since early childhood.
He loves to be in the middle of a crowd of people. He enjoys being the life of the party.
Being with people energizes him, but he also has a need to spend time one on one with his closest friends and associates. He has a best friend: his cousin Trehan; a trusted mentor in Sir Kyle; a small but very trusted circle of friends and companions, and a wider circle of people whom he likes and enjoys spending time with, but aren’t part of his inner circle.
While he wants to be liked, he doesn’t have a burning need to be liked. He doesn’t need the approval of other people, except as it helps him accomplish his goals.